Students safe after armed man reported at school
THORNTON, Colo. (AP) — Armed officers and worried parents rushed to a Denver-area high school as students hunkered down in closets and classrooms Friday after a report of a gunman near campus on the last day of class before summer vacation, but the high anxiety faded after a police search turned up nothing.
“We’ve pretty much searched the building,” Thornton Police spokesman Matt Barnes said outside Thornton High School in the northern Denver suburbs. “We’ve not located anything.”
No injuries were reported, and there were no reports of gunfire after the report of a man with a rifle.
Before the all clear, dozens of students left the school in single file, holding hands and led by police. They boarded school buses, and an officer was posted in each bus. Authorities took the students to a nearby bus park-and-ride lot and told parents to meet their children there.
Others huddled in classrooms and closets. Freshman Haley Johnson, 14, said she spent about 90 minutes in a supply closet that wasn’t air conditioned, texting her mother and trying to go online to find out if there was a shooter.
Meanwhile sophomore Jesse Desourdy’s history class locked the door after an alert went off, turned the lights out and gathered against a wall for about an hour. “I was going to ditch, too,” he said. “I should have, but it was a pretty epic last day of school.”
There were some tense moments before police gave the all clear.
“I’m freaking out,” said Michelle Copeland, who was outside the school awaiting word on her 16-year-old son, Timothy Romero, a sophomore. “My knees are shaking. What if it’s an automatic gun? Any gun, it doesn’t matter.”
She said Timothy texted her from gym class saying the school was on lockdown, and heavily armed police were inside.
Amy Irsik said she sped to the school, crying all the way, after her 17-year-old son David sent her a text saying the school was on lockdown after the report of an armed man. “I love you,” the text ended.
Student Ezequiel Cordova said he left the building at the order of police as an automated message came over the public address system announcing a security problem.
Niejha Andersen, 14, said her 16-year-old sister Toni texted her from inside the school shortly before noon that she was hiding under her desk. Toni is a junior at the school while Niejha is home-schooled.
The school has 2,000 students and 130 staff members.
The incident rattled Thornton, a city of 122,000 about 20 miles north of Columbine High School in the southwest Denver suburbs. Law enforcement was criticized for not moving quickly enough after the 1999 attack there in which two teenagers killed 12 students and a teacher before killing themselves.
After Columbine, police across the country developed tactics for responding officers to aggressively rush onto scenes to stop any suspected gunman.